News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: This is Despair--the Worst Sin--NOT Religion

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

This is Despair--the Worst Sin--NOT Religion

Muslims riot over reading of satirical Voltaire play about Mohammed. I ask you? What are you afarid of that you'd riot over words and concepts? Were you truly faithful words and concepts that try your faith should only make you more faithful, not less. Not only do you make yourselves look ridiculous, you shame the name of the Prophet whose memory you supposedly revere. ...

According to Andrew Higgins at the Wall Street Journal:

Late last year, as an international crisis was brewing over Danish cartoons of Muhammad, Muslims raised a furor in this little alpine town over a much older provocateur: Voltaire, the French champion of the 18th-century Enlightenment.

A municipal cultural center here on France's border with Switzerland organized a reading of a 265-year-old play by Voltaire, whose writings helped lay the foundations of modern Europe's commitment to secularism. The play, ''Fanaticism, or Mahomet the Prophet,'' uses the founder of Islam to lampoon all forms of religious frenzy and intolerance.

The production quickly stirred up passions that echoed the cartoon uproar. ''This play ... constitutes an insult to the entire Muslim community,'' said a letter to the mayor of Saint-Genis-Pouilly, signed by Said Akhrouf, a French-born cafe owner of Moroccan descent and three other Islamic activists representing Muslim associations. They demanded the performance be cancelled.

Instead, Mayor Hubert Bertrand called in police reinforcements to protect the theater. On the night of the December reading, a small riot broke out involving several dozen people and youths who set fire to a car and garbage cans. It was ''the most excitement we've ever had down here,'' says the socialist mayor.

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